Technology Enhanced Learning at Sussex

Canvas shared spaces


Discussions in Canvas are designed for more than a single message, allowing members of a module to discuss a topic in more depth.

Discussions are great for extending the sharing of ideas and understanding beyond lectures and seminars. The Rich Content Editor that is used throughout Canvas allows Discussion posts and replies to include a range of content such as images, videos, weblinks and files, so there are many options for students to express and share their ideas.

Students can create Discussions, either in the module (if enabled in Settings) or  in their own groups. If required, discussion posts can be graded or students can ‘ like’ replies so they could be used as a formative   and/or peer assessment.

Tips for using Discussions

A recent TEL blog post on  5 ways to make online discussions work in your teaching  offers some great tips on using Discussions.

It is important to remember that unlike a forum, a Canvas Discussion is focused on just one topic, so you would usually expect to see a number of discussions on different topics within a module.

If you want students to be able to create discussions and/or upload files to them, then the relevant setting(s) need to be chosen in Settings / Module details / more options.

screenshot of the settings that need to be changed

More information

Module Chat

The Module Chat feature facilitates real-time, informal conversations between members of a module (staff and students). Chat does not have the functionality of Discussions, but allows quick messages like you might see on social media platforms, including emojis.

When Chat is enabled, a Module chat box is visible at the bottom right of all module screens. When you click on the arrow the window pops up and you can see comments that have been posted, or add your own. You can also see the whole chat by clicking on Chat in the module navigation menu.

screenshot of Chat window

Tips for using Module Chat

As a ‘ live’ form of communication, chat messages do not produce notifications through other channels such as email or SMS (see Notifications below).. You can choose to have ‘ new message alerts’ within Canvas which will sound a ‘ ping’ when a new message is posted, so it is best used at a time that you are logged into Canvas and ready to respond to messages.

Chat can be enabled or disabled by editing the Navigation menu.

More information


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